What I learned from one of the network marketing organization’s training CDs was the importance of legitimizing your business.
The idea is this. If all you’ve got is a website and some business cards, you don’t have a business. Even if you’ve registered your business name with the proper authorities, you still don’t have a business. So, when do you have a business? When you’ve legitimized it.
Once you’ve made your first dollar, you have proof that the concept works. And while starting a new venture is exciting, I promise you it’s nowhere near as exciting as making money from something you personally created.
Music Entrepreneur HQ was just a fun side project for me when it got started. It wasn’t even Music Entrepreneur HQ at the time – it was David Andrew Wiebe Podcast, and then David Andrew Wiebe Interviews and Music Business Podcast. Just another way for me to get my music out into the world.
I finally dipped my toes in the water with How to Set Up Your Music Career Like a Business, my first audio program.
I still had no clue what I was doing at the time. Because I was planning to sell the program, though, I wanted to ensure it was high value and in-depth. And when I was finished recording it, I was rather horrified to find it was only 30 minutes long!
Buy I put it out there anyway, originally for $0.99. Before long, though, my peers saw what I was up to, wanted to become an affiliate of the program to promote it, and encouraged me to raise the price.
And that was when I got to my first dollar for Music Entrepreneur HQ. I had achieved this feat with other ventures, so I wasn’t exactly a business legitimizing virgin, but the sense of elation and excitement I felt selling a few copies of my audio program is simply indescribable.
It’s fun to create. It’s a blast, really. But if you want to build a profitable and sustainable music career, you’ve got to get to your first dollar. And you’ve got to prove to yourself that you can do it. And trust me, it’s worth it – it’s a feeling like no other!
Then, I decided I wanted to create a three-tier offer based on the book. So, I developed bonus content and started putting together what I called Pro Packs.
I wanted the offer to have some urgency, so I put a hard deadline on it. The sales page had a countdown timer too.
But this deadline wasn’t just for my prospects and buyers. It was also for me.
This deadline quickly moved me to action because it meant I would need to create the bonus content, set up the sales page and offers, and promote it in the timeframe I’d set for myself. After that date, the offer was going to go away. So, I needed to act with urgency.
This constraint helped me come up with a lot of great marketing ideas.
Screenwriter Martin Villeneuve said:
Problems are hidden opportunities, and constraints can actually boost creativity.
In total, there weren’t many takers for the most expensive tier in my offer. But because of these efforts, my book ended up having one of its best months.
Why Are Deadlines Effective?
Effectiviology says “deadlines can help reduce the likelihood that you will procrastinate both when they are self-imposed as well as when they are external.”
Basically, deadlines work just as well for personal projects and product creation as they do for client work or work in general.
Further, deadlines are effective because:
They can make your goals feel more concrete. When you don’t have deadlines, you don’t have to show up or do something by a specific date. But if you know you’re going to be running a marathon next month, you’ll spend time preparing because you must.
They can help you throw your hat over the fence. Which means to make a commitment in advance of the action or result. You’ll be less likely to procrastinate, because now you’ve got to chase that hat down.
They can inspire structure. As seen in the personal example I shared earlier, deadlines can inspire innovation and action. When you don’t have deadlines, your next actions can be murky and uncertain. Basically, without a deadline, you let yourself off the hook and allow yourself to be wishy-washy in its completion.
Are Deadlines Always Beneficial?
No, not always.
What matters most is that you use them to your advantage. Not try to create a reality distortion field a la Steve Jobs (unless you want to work yourself to the bone…).
Research has already shown that deadlines don’t always work. And to be honest, no one likes to live in deadline hell. You can set too many deadlines.
So, how can we avoid these pitfalls?
Herbert Lui’s article on The Freelance Creative offers some clues. These are my main takeaways:
Set aside adequate time to work on the deadline. Ensure that you aren’t scrambling to meet a deadline at the last minute. Allocate time to the project in your schedule. And if necessary, set aside the entire week leading up to the deadline just to work on it.
Set tighter deadlines. It’s altogether too easy to let yourself off the hook, work extra buffer time into your deadline, and make it too easy on yourself so there’s no need to innovate. Moving up deadlines can force inspired action.
Minimize unrealistic deadlines. Finishing too soon can end up creating a problem, especially for freelancers. Because if you meet one unrealistic deadline, you will often be rewarded with another unrealistic deadline. You can only pull so many all-nighters, so this is unsustainable. Know when to say “uncle.” Too much can be too much.
Experiment and have fun. You can set deadlines just for fun. See how it feels to set deadlines. Notice how it sharpens your thinking and how it has a way of clarifying your purpose and eliminating distractions.
Here’s the thing about publishing. Hitting that “publish” button for the first time can be scary. And the second time can still be quite scary. But the more we do it, the less scary it becomes.
Oftentimes, the reason a creator fears publishing is because they are not in that momentum.
Making Your Minimum Viable Product
Although this reframe is important, what I’m asking here still isn’t easy and I know that.
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a lo-fi, basement demo, homespun version of your work. It’s the 80% that matters, versus the extra 20% of polish that would make you feel better but might not make the slightest bit of difference for your audience.
The 20% is where creators end up wasting a lot of time. Making a better logo. Optimizing a landing page. Choosing the right fonts and colors. Versus putting lo-fi elements into place until there’s a need for something better (and many times you will discover there is no need for something better!).
Examples of MVPs
I have several examples of MVPs that, to my surprise, ended up doing quite well:
Fire Your God. Out of all my musical releases, this is the one that gets the biggest reaction, and it was the most amateurish. It started out as a project called Demos 2010, if that gives you any idea.
For instance, if you create an infoproduct, and your first customers come back to you and say, “I paid too much for this,” or “I know all this already,” you might not feel all that good about the situation.
By the way, this happened to me.
But what matters is how you deal with a situation like that. My customers didn’t end up demanding a refund because I was willing to interact with them and share some of the reasons why the product had turned out the way it did. Customer support for the win!
Upsides of MVPs
The great thing about an MVP is that you can launch it to your audience, gather some feedback, and then make some improvements. In some cases, you will find that you receive little to no feedback, and therefore do not need to make any improvements!
Basically, you can begin making an independent income, and more importantly, an impact, sooner.
And if your product just isn’t compelling, isn’t the right fit, or wasn’t destined for massive success, you’d also know sooner. And that means you can go back to the drawing board sooner, too.
There will always be the temptation to approach your business like an artist. I’m not saying that’s wrong. But when it comes to the important work of making an income, you might need to set the artist hat down, even if just temporarily, so you can put your business hat on and approach product development from a different angle. After all, no money, no mission.
Try minimum viable for yourself and see how it feels. Real-world experience is important. Likely you will see that you can get things done much faster when you don’t obsess about the small details that may not even matter, and which you can improve later anyway.
What’s holding you back from embracing minimum viable?
Let me know in the comments.
P.S. I just launched my new course, the Entrepreneurial Essentials for Musicians Masterclass.
This course equips you with practical and timeless mindset advice, along with the skills necessary to make your own way in the music business.
Right now, this course is available for just $9. But it won’t stay that way for long.